Facts about the Virgin Islands

World Facts Index > Virgin Islands > St John, St Thomas

During the 17th century, the archipelago was divided into two territorial units, one English and the other Danish. Sugarcane, produced by slave labor, drove the islands' economy during the 18th and early 19th centuries. In 1917, the US purchased the Danish portion, which had been in economic decline since the abolition of slavery in 1848.

Geography of the the Virgin Islands

Location:
Caribbean, islands between the Caribbean Sea and the North Atlantic Ocean, east of Puerto Rico
Coordinates:
18 20 N, 64 50 W
Area:
total: 352 sq km
water: 3 sq km
land: 349 sq km
Area comparative:
twice the size of Washington, DC
Land boundaries:
0 km
Coastline:
188 km
Maritime claims:
exclusive economic zone: 200 NM
territorial sea: 12 NM
Climate:
subtropical, tempered by easterly trade winds, relatively low humidity, little seasonal temperature variation; rainy season May to November
Terrain:
mostly hilly to rugged and mountainous with little level land
Elevation extremes:
lowest point: Caribbean Sea 0 m
highest point: Crown Mountain 474 m
Natural resources:
sun, sand, sea, surf
Natural hazards:
several hurricanes in recent years; frequent and severe droughts and floods; occasional earthquakes
Environment current issues:
lack of natural freshwater resources
Geography - note:
important location along the Anegada Passage - a key shipping lane for the Panama Canal; Saint Thomas has one of the best natural deepwater harbors in the Caribbean

Population of the Virgin Islands

Population:
109,840 (July 2008 est.)
Age structure:
0-14 years: 22.4% (male 12,261/female 12,056)
15-64 years: 66.4% (male 34,174/female 37,949)
65 years and over: 11.2% (male 5,385/female 6,780)
Median age:
37.1 years
Growth rate:
-0.12%
Infant mortality:
7.86 deaths/1,000 live births
Life expectancy at birth:
total population: 79.05 years
male: 75.24 years
female: 83.09 years
Fertility rate:
2.17 children born/woman
Nationality:
noun: Virgin Islander(s)
adjective: Virgin Islander
Ethnic groups:
black 76.2%, white 13.1%, Asian 1.1%, other 6.1%, mixed 3.5%
Religions:
Baptist 42%, Roman Catholic 34%, Episcopalian 17%, other 7%
Languages:
English 74.7%, Spanish or Spanish Creole 16.8%, French or French Creole 6.6%, other 1.9%
Literacy:
definition: age 15 and over can read and write
total population: 90-95% est.

Government

Country name:
conventional long form: United States Virgin Islands
former: Danish West Indies
Dependency status:
organized, unincorporated territory of the US with policy relations between the Virgin Islands and the US under the jurisdiction of the Office of Insular Affairs, US Department of the Interior
Capital:
Charlotte Amalie
Administrative divisions:
none (territory of the US); there are no first-order administrative divisions as defined by the US Government, but there are three islands at the second order; Saint Croix, Saint John, Saint Thomas
National holiday:
Transfer Day (from Denmark to the US), 27 March (1917)
Constitution:
Revised Organic Act of 22 July 1954
Legal system:
based on US laws
Suffrage:
18 years of age; universal; note - island residents are US citizens but do not vote in US presidential elections
Executive branch:
chief of state: President George W. BUSH of the US
head of government: Governor John DeJONGH
elections: under the US Consitution, residents of unincorporated territories, such as the Virgin Islands, do not vote in elections for US president and vice president; governor and lieutenant governor elected on the same ticket by popular vote for four-year terms (eligible for a second term)
Legislative branch:
unicameral Senate (15 seats; members are elected by popular vote to serve two-year terms)
Judicial branch:
US District Court of the Virgin Islands (under Third Circuit jurisdiction); Territorial Court (judges appointed by the governor for 10-year terms)

Economy

Tourism is the primary economic activity, accounting for 80% of GDP and employment. The islands hosted 2.6 million visitors in 2005. The manufacturing sector consists of petroleum refining, textiles, electronics, pharmaceuticals, and watch assembly. One of the world's largest petroleum refineries is at Saint Croix. The agricultural sector is small, with most food being imported. International business and financial services are small but growing components of the economy. The islands are vulnerable to substantial damage from storms. The government is working to improve fiscal discipline, to support construction projects in the private sector, to expand tourist facilities, to reduce crime, and to protect the environment.

GDP:
$1.577 billion (2004 est.)
GDP growth rate:
2%
GDP per capita:
$14,500
GDP composition by sector:
agriculture: 1%
industry: 19%
services: 80%
Inflation rate:
2.2%
Labor force:
43,980
Labor force - by occupation:
agriculture 1%, industry 19%, services 80% 
Unemployment:
6.2%
Industries:
tourism, petroleum refining, watch assembly, rum distilling, construction, pharmaceuticals, textiles, electronics
Electricity production by source:
fossil fuel: 100%
hydro: 0%
other: 0%
Agriculture:
fruit, vegetables, sorghum; Senepol cattle
Exports:
refined petroleum products
Export partners:
US, Puerto Rico
Imports:
crude oil, foodstuffs, consumer goods, building materials
Import partners:
US, Puerto Rico
Currency:
US dollar (USD)

SOURCES: The CIA World Factbook, U.S. Department of State, Area Handbook of the US Library of Congress

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